Sunday December 03, 2017

Goodbye shopping channel, hello Facebook Live

Pearl parties have become a lucrative genre for Facebook Live, but you can buy anything from vintage clothing to sex toys on the service.

Pearl parties have become a lucrative genre for Facebook Live, but you can buy anything from vintage clothing to sex toys on the service. (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

Listen 11:32

You've probably never wanted to actually buy something you saw on an infomercial. Except perhaps a Shamwow. Maybe a Magic Bullet too, you know, for those morning smoothies.

And of course you had to have The Clapper! It turned off your dining room lights long before Siri ever could.

But now, as Amazon and other online retailers make it easy to shop from your smartphone, why would you turn on the TV to buy the things you didn't think you needed?

You wouldn't! So say goodbye to TV shopping and say hello to... Facebook Live?

Beejoli Shah

Beejoli Shah is a freelance writer and contributing editor to Pacific Standard. (Beejoli Shah)

When Facebook Live launched in 2016, users could instantly broadcast video from their smart device.

Then, it was a medium for weird experiments, like Buzzfeed's exploding watermelon. Unfortunately, it was also an opportunity for shocking and disturbing broadcasts, including an attack on a disabled teen, and incidents of suicide and murder.

Now, creative entrepreneurs are using Facebook Live to hawk their wares — and you can tune in to order right from the comments.

Freelance writer Beejoli Shah spent some time looking through the world of livestreaming vendors in her piece "Facebook Live is the new QVC" for Backchannel.

"It's like the digital version of a Tupperware party," Beejoli says.

There's plenty on offer. LuLaRoe leggings are very popular. Some sell tarot card readings for those looking for some answers. But most surprising are so-called pearl parties.

That's where people shuck oysters on camera to reveal the pearls their viewers purchased.

Pearls

The pearls you get at pearl parties might be pretty, but they're not your grandma's pearls. (Pixabay)

"People will buy oysters ahead of time and then they tune into Facebook Live to see what colour the pearls they get turn out to be," Beejoli explains.

But the shopping opportunities don't end with pearls! Buyers can get matching jewellery for a DIY pearl bracelet, or even a cozy blanket to snuggle up in.

"[They're] starting to branch out. In addition to pearls, you'll see the type of stuff that you would see at Tupperware parties," she says. "Everything from literal Tupperware to adult sex toys."

Beejoli says that these experiences aren't really about buying things though.

Warning: This video may contain mature language.

"The products that I'm looking at… for the most part aren't that great," she says.

"The pearls are a dollar or two each and everyone who buys them knows this. The sellers I've spoken to do not disillusion their customers into thinking they're rare.

"They make it very clear they're selling an experience."

The experience is a community. Sellers reply to buyers comments live during the stream. The seller will ask about their vacations and family members. They know each of them by name.

"The customers get to know each other too, which is really nice," Beejoli says.

"If you stick around and watch the same seller — even two to three shows… you'll get to see a lot of the same regulars join in."

"It's really is giving people a place to go more than it is selling them something to buy."